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18th Jan 2019

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Slovenia rejects gay marriage law

  • Slovenia is one of the most gay-friendly eastern EU states (Photo: Janis Zakis)

Almost two-thirds of voters rejected a law on gay marriage in Slovenia’s referendum on Sunday (20 December), highlighting an east-west cultural divide in the EU.

With almost all votes counted, 63.5 percent of people said No.

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Turnout was low, at 36 percent, accounting for 620,261 people out of the 1.6 million people eligible to vote in the small, former-Yugoslav state. But enough people voted No (20 percent of eligible voters) to make the result stick.

"This result presents a victory for our children,” Ales Primc, from the Slovenian NGO 'Children Are At Stake', which called for the vote on the grounds that it denigrates mothers and children’s rights, told the BBC.

Violeta Tomic, from the left-wing United Left party, said: “It’s not over yet. Sooner or later the law will be accepted.”

Ilga-Europe, a Brussels-based gay rights NGO, issued similar comments. “Even though marriage equality isn’t a reality just yet … the appetite is there for change,” the group’s Brian Sheehan said. “The optimism of March 2015 feels like a more distant memory. However, we will not lose hope,” the group’s director, Evelyne Paradis, added.

Slovenian MPs passed the original law, an amendment to the Marriage and Family Relations Act, in March, which defined marriage as a union between two consenting adults, instead of as between a man and a woman.

But the 'Children Are At Stake' group initiated the referendum after collecting over 40,000 signatures in a petition. MPs said No to the referendum on the grounds that the constitution forbids popular votes on human rights issues. But the Constitutional Court, in October, authorised the move.

Slovenia, which legally recognised same-sex partnerships ten years ago, is one of the most gay-friendly EU states from former Communist states.

But Sunday’s outcome highlights an east-west divide on the issue in the European Union.

Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg (which also has an openly gay PM), The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the UK, allow gay marriage. Ireland, a traditionally Roman Catholic country, joined them after a referendum in May.

But most eastern European states don’t give same-sex couples full rights or status.

The Slovenia vote came despite appeals for a Yes from the European Commission and the European Parliament’s liberal and left-wing political groups.

Major rights groups, such as the New York-based Human Rights Watch and the London-based Amnesty International, called for a Yes.

The Slovenian president and PM, Borut Pahor and Miro Cerar, also backed a Yes but didn’t actively campaign.

Pope Francis, the Roman Catholic leader, called for a No. He said Slovenia should “protect the family as the structural reference point for the life of society.”

Italy changes EU gay rights map

Decision to allow same-sex unions deleted last zone of anti-gay intolerance in western Europe. Lack of adoption rights left "bitter taste".

EU court bars tests for gay asylum seekers

Authorities in EU countries can no longer impose controversial psychological tests to determine whether an aslyum seeker is telling the truth about their homosexuality.

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